Two more cougars sighted in Ashland parks

ASHLAND — More cougar sightings in Ashland parks have been reported to the city's Parks and Recreation Department.

The city received two reports of cougar sightings on Wednesday, just weeks after a man reported seeing a cougar feeding on a deer carcass in Lithia Park on May 20.

The first sighting took place at 4 a.m. in Lithia Park when a parks employee spotted what he described as a large adult cougar, said Don Robertson, Ashland Parks and Recreation director. The cougar ran off soon after being seen.

"Of course any animal is going to look large at 4 in the morning," said Robertson.

At about 10:30 the same morning, visitors to North Mountain Park reported seeing a cougar described as small and younger looking. People at the park were moved to a nearby building as a precaution and officials contacted police, but the cougar was gone by the time they arrived.

"We don't know if it's the same cougar or not; they have a very large range," Robertson said.

Notices of the sightings have been posted in Lithia Park and North Mountain Park.

Cougar sightings in and around Ashland are not rare, but there have never been attacks on humans.

"We believe it's safe in Lithia Park, but we also believe people should take precautions," Robertson said.

Members of the Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife Division examined the deer carcass found in Lithia Park in May and concluded that the deer's skull had been penetrated by what looked to be the canine teeth of a cougar. City officials said five animals, including deer and turkeys, had been killed in the park in recent weeks.

In 2010, city officials warned people to use caution after getting reports of cougar sightings near the White Rabbit Trail in the Ashland watershed. In 2009, police shot and killed a cougar in a tree in an elderly man's backyard on Clay Street. Police were concerned that it didn't have an escape route through the populated neighborhood back into the forested hills above Ashland. Onlookers, including children, also had gathered near the site.

People are asked to report any cougar sightings to the Ashland Police Department at 541-488-5211 and the Ashland Parks Department at 541-488-5340. Both numbers are monitored 24 hours a day and callers are asked to leave a message if someone doesn't answer the phone in person.

Mandy Valencia is a reporter for the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4486.

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